GW students should continue with their plans for the weekend of canceled classes later this month even though the IMF and World Bank postponed their meetings.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank heeded a request from D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey to postpone the meetings because of security concerns following Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Classes will remain cancelled from 4 p.m. Sept. 27 to 4 p.m. Oct. 2.
“What we are going to do is stick with the academic calendar that we announced even if the meetings aren’t taking place,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. “Classes are going to be cancelled on that weekend, and the Columbus Day weekend will be cannibalized as a result.”
Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert
Chernak said MPD still expects a large amount of protesters to arrive that weekend. If safety issues still threaten the campus, he said, residence halls will remain closed as scheduled.
“Right now what the MPD told us as recently as of (Thursday) is that they still expect as many as 15,000 protesters if the meetings don’t happen,” Chernak said. “All we can do is monitor what the IMF/World Bank announces and how the protest groups respond.”
Ramsey originally requested GW evacuate its residence halls to help control the crowd of 100,000 protesters expected at the meetings, scheduled for Sept. 29 and 30.
While the full amount of protesters may not show, Director of Media Relations Gretchen King said ones that do are more likely to pose a safety threat.
“You may not have 100,000, but you may have 15,000 individuals
who have a more radical approach to making their voices heard,” she said.
“It would probably be the most determined and probably the most radical forces.”
King added that it would be difficult to place community facilitators in residence halls with such sort notice.
Trachtenberg said Wednesday he was “leaning toward” resuming a normal schedule because there would be no reason to cancel class or close buildings without large-scale protests. He said if the reason for canceling classes was removed, “the University will not be able to justify giving people who are able to stay here a five-day vacation.”
Student Association President Roger Kapoor said administrators consulted the SA about the decision, something they had not done when GW canceled classes originally.
“We pushed for the University to make the decision to stick to their promise,” he said. “I couldn’t walk anywhere without having students stop me and say, `I’ve bought nonrefundable tickets, and I can’t have the University reverse their decision.'”
If residence halls remain closed, Chernak said GW will still offer transportation home and emergency housing to students who cannot travel and have no place to stay.
He said Friday that GW received 83 requests for housing and 65 requests for transportation.
“We are currently housing students in Crystal City hotels, and with those numbers it would be logistically difficult to arrange several residence halls with community facilitators and other essential staff when those individuals have made plans to leave,” Chernak said.
Chernak said residence halls may be open if MPD indicates it safe and enough students decide to stay.
“If we have the option of opening the halls and the demand to justify it, there is no reason we can’t re-think our plan,” he said. “We are going to be fluid about it.”
Kapoor said if MPD still expects violent demonstrations the weekend of Sept. 29, the SA will ask GW to provide guaranteed housing off campus for students who want to stay for free.
“My priority has been to make sure that those have demonstrated need financially, given medical reasons or international students, that those students receive guaranteed housing immediately,” he said. “We want to now make sure that those students who might not have those needs but just want to stay to exercise their first amendment right to protest that they should have guaranteed housing.”
If no demonstrations are expected, Kapoor said the SA will request that residence halls stay open.
“We’ve made clear to them that that’s what the student want, that’s what we want,” Kapoor said.
Recent terrorist attacks have forced the University to look at the situation in a new light, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is portray to them the image that students are in a very fragile position,” Kapoor said. “On the one hand, some students now, because of the tragedy that has befallen us with the devastating terrorist attacks, are being urged by parents not to fly home because they are just worried about what could happen in a worst case scenario.”
Whether staying in residence halls or not, students will have a five-day vacation at the end of the month.
“Students need to re-connect with their families and in that regard, the break is a good thing,” Dean of Students Linda Donnells said.
-Russ Rizzo and Kate Stepan contributed to this report.